In what was a tight affair, the National University Bulldogs opened their season with a win against the gritty University of the East Red Warriors, 72-66, in the second day of UAAP Season 79, Wednesday afternoon at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay city.
The Bulldogs actually started out the game with guns ablaze as they raced to a 14-4 lead. However, the Warriors clawed their way back and used a 7-0 run that bridged the third and fourth period to take the lead, 47-50, at the 8:36 mark of the final period.
NU would answer though and, from then on, it would be a seesaw affair that resulted into five lead changes and five deadlocks with no team leading by more than three points. The turning point of the game came when the Bulldogs held the Warriors scoreless in the last 1:34.
“I expected it to be a very tough, tight game. UE is a Final Four team,” said NU head coach Eric Altamirano. “Our defense bailed us out in the fourth.”
It was a welcoming scenario for the Bulldogs, unlike last season.
“Last year galing kami sa 0-3, nag-start kami ng slow. This year ayaw na uli namin mangyari ‘yun,” said NU gunner JJ Alejandro. “Kailangan strong start na kami this season.”
Alejandro chipped in 13 points, three rebounds and three assists while veteran big man Alfred Aroga paced the team with 16 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks.
For the Red Warriors, Bonbon Batiller led with 18 points, four rebounds and three assists in a losing effort while rookie Alvin Pasaol chipped in 10 points and six rebounds.
UE will look to bounce back against the UST Growling Tigers on Saturday, September 11, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum at 2 pm while NU’s next assignment will be the Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles the following day on the same venue at 4 pm.
NU: Aroga 16, Alejandro 13, J. Diputado 9, Salem 7, Morido 7, Rangel 7, Abatayo 5, M. Diputado, 3, Gallego 2, Sinclair 2, Pate 1, Mosqueda 0, Salim 0, Yu 0.
UE: Batiller 18, Pasaol 10, De Leon 8, Penuela 7, Olayon 7, Varilla 5, Charcos 4, Abanto 2, Palma 2, Acuno 2, Gagate 1, Manalang 0, Armenion 0, Larupay 0, Derige 0, Bartolome 0.